Here's part two of the series from Monday. I haven't written a short story in a while, so be kind.
"I can't say no to him anymore. Fuck."
She looks at her reflection in the back of the mirrored elevator doors, shaking her head and fidgeting her left knee nervously as she bounces her heel up and down and hears her own voice vector off the walls. Winter is fading into spring, but she decided to wear her heavy red coat today anyway, because she wants to remind him of the night they met. Her long brown hair is in a ponytail, but a stray rebel curls into her collar and tickles her neck. She scratches it and sighs. She bites her lip as she groans at her own submissiveness. Goddamnit. The doors open.
She walks. She turns the corner and a long corridor opens before her. The light is dim. She grips the hotel room key in her hand and her knuckles grimace. She drops the key. She bends at the hip to pick it up. She thinks about the e-mail she sent to him when she got home the night he left her on the street. It was only six words long: You're just as scared as me. He wrote her back immediately. If you're not scared, meet me at The Surrey on 76th, a week from tonight, 4 p.m. There will be a key waiting for you. She reaches the door, and slides the card into its slot. Beep. Click. Turn.
A cold blast of air hits the back of her bare neck as she turns to close the door behind her. She swings around, stepping out of her black pumps and pulling the band out of her hair in one sweeping motion. Her hair falls around her face as she notices the room. The walls are green. Light, pastel, friendly green. The sheer white curtains billow open, permitting dreary late-afternoon sunlight onto the floor. She steps into it like a puddle. If this room were food, it would be an Easter cupcake, and I would eat it.
She walks over to the air conditioner below the window, lifts the ancient metal cover and flicks it off. She leans against the cover as she tries to close it, pressing her entire weight against the window. Her lips part as she exhales, and she can see her breath. Fuck. She gets it shut and looks at her watch. 3:50. She’s early.
She walks to the bathroom, shedding and tossing her coat on the bed as she walks. She sets her bag on the vanity, clicks on the light and flips her hair over her head. She looks at her upside-down knees through her black stockings. She remembers what he said to her a week ago. She remembers telling him he was wrong. She flips her hair back over. The faucet in the bathtub is dripping. She walks over, sits one hip on the edge, and leans in to turn it off. She’s wearing a short, puffy blue dress with white polka dots. It has spaghetti straps. She’s not wearing a bra. Some water drips on her finger and she brushes it through her hair. He was right, because here I am. Fucker.
She stands up and walks to the vanity. She looks at herself, again, and feels another wave of fatigued exasperation. She looks at her watch. 3:55. Five minutes. She pulls out her makeup and starts working on her face, remembering all the times she watched her mother do this when she was young. What would mom think of me now? Corralling stray eyebrow hairs. Wiping away errant mascara flakes. Brushing on pink blush, brown eyeshadow, black eye liner. A smear of red lipstick. Pout. Pout. I don’t want to look like myself.
4:01. He’s late. Motherfucker. She walks into the bedroom and plops her bag and body on the edge of the bed. She retrieves the menu from the nightstand and realizes she hasn’t eaten today. The room is in his name. She picks up the phone and dials. She orders a steak and a glass of red wine. She smirks to herself. She lays back on the bed, one leg hanging off the side, hands across her stomach, and her hair sprawls behind her on the pillow. She watches the ceiling fan spin and listens to the sound of the city outside. Honk. Screech. Wail. 4:05.
She rolls over and snatches her bag from the edge of the bed. She reaches inside and takes out the latest issue of the New Yorker, which she had been pretending to read for several days. She flips to the fiction section and reads a couple paragraphs, remembering how good of a writer he is, how intriguingly he had expressed himself in every turn of their correspondence. She gets excited and laughs under her breath before throwing her weight down into her hips, arching her back and throwing her head back to look at the upside-down world through the window. Her arms dangle over her head. She drops her New Yorker onto the floor. When you're all dizzy-eyed over NYC and loving life I can go after your ass.
4:15. The train is probably fucked up. She sits up, rummages through her bag again and pulls out her iPhone. She remembers how he had taken it from her, without asking, within minutes of their meeting, flipping through her photo albums like he was looking for something he had misplaced. Asshole. No messages now. No missed calls. No e-mails. She remembers waking up one morning a year and a half ago or so to find that she had no e-mails, and the resulting moment of poignant panic as she pondered that perhaps she was the only human left alive after an overnight apocalypse that, for no reason at all, spared no one but her.
A noise. Something outside the door. Something against the door. Something inside the door? 4:18. Her eyes whip toward the knob and her head follows. Her chest heaves upward and pauses as she holds her breath without knowing it. She does not blink. Waiting for another sound. A motion. She sees a shadow, but it passes. Silence. Breath. A sudden headache. 4:20.
The dim sunlight is becoming dimmer as she becomes more anxious, then bored. She gets up off the bed and makes her way to a black chair sitting in front of a dresser, the only other piece of furniture in the room aside from a small table sporting a television. She sits. There’s a mirror she hadn’t noticed before. She looks at herself. He’s not coming. He was right on time last week, and talked about how he’s never, ever late. But he also said he was a gardener. A roux of lies makes for a terrible soup if one is expecting true flavor. 4:23. She bends down, reaches up under her dress and starts sliding off her stockings.
Why would he pay for a hotel room for me and then not show up? She is suddenly aware that she didn’t wear panties. She folds her legs underneath her in the chair and wraps the feet of her stockings around her wrists, effectively tying them together. She lifts her arms above her head and tries to braid her hair with her hands restrained, watching herself in the mirror. Her skin looks especially white against the taut black of her hose, and the dim light makes her look a bit sickly. She is impossibly beautiful, but she doesn’t know it.
Her hair in a side braid that hugs her right ear, she unties her hands and wraps the stockings around her neck, then around her braid. She ties the feet in a bow at the bottom. 4:30. She takes off her watch and her rings and her necklace, leaving her bracelets in place as she always does. Boooored. Where is my steak? She somehow knows she will never eat it. She remembers something she packed.
She digs in her bag and finds the black bra and panties she packed to cover the parts of her she didn’t care if he saw. She pulls her dress over her head and catches her nude reflection in the mirror. 4:35. She steps into the underwear and pulls on the bra, bending her arms awkwardly to clasp it behind her back. The carpet feels suddenly hot under her feet. She remembers the ugly brown carpet her parents had in her house growing up. She laughs at herself at her stupid stocking braid and gallops to the bathroom.
Her makeup is still strewn about the vanity. She moves it out of the way before climbing up and sitting on her heels, straddling the faucet in the sink. She picks up her eyeliner and closes her eyes. Open. Close. Open. Close. Who are you now? She uses her left hand to force down her left eyelid before using her right hand to press the liner to the top lid. Thick. Viscous. Black black black. She does the same on her other lid. She draws a tiny star at the outer corner of each eye. She remembers the neon blue mascara she had when she was 12 years old, how it only looked blue in certain light and looked black the rest of the time. She remembers that the makeup line was called Fetish. She covets it now.
She picks up her red lipstick. She looks down at her bare, pale legs and hates them. Then she loves them. She flexes her thigh muscles just because she can, and she loves them. Then she hates them again. She catches a glimpse of the insides of her wrists in the capture, one pure and veiny and white, the other marred by a black tattoo she got drunk in Brooklyn one night. She hates it. Who gives tattoos to drunk girls anyway? She draws a thick line on the inside of each wrist with the lipstick. They’re not dark enough. Again. Again. Again. 4:50.
She looks at her eyes in the mirror and for a second she doesn’t recognize them. Didn’t they used to be green? Good. She lifts her arms into a heavy box shape and presses her wrists against the cool glass. She moans. She leaves them there for a moment and feels her pulse against her reflection. Thump. Thump. Thump. She thinks about the question he asked her a week ago. Am I a woman now? She pulls her wrists away and two horizontal red lines remain on the glass. She uses the lipstick to cross them before connecting them with one beautiful stroke in the middle: twat.
She giggles and hops down, admiring her work. She licks the inside of one wrist, just to see if it tastes different. She realizes she didn’t know what it tasted like before, so she’s not really sure. It just tastes like salt and metal and chemicals. She drops the open lipstick into the sink before stepping out of her panties and removing her bra. She drapes them over the shower curtain rod, pretending she’s just returned from the opera or the ballet or a fabulous dinner, and she got caught in the rain and needs to dry out her undergarments. She imagines cab after cab passing her by as she raises her arm higher and higher in the wet air, yelling in frustration. 4:58.
She remembers that she is alone. She remembers that she has been abandoned, sort of. Except you can't really be abandoned by someone who never had you to begin with. She feels a reluctant twinge of disappointment as she flips the switch in the bathroom, turning the light off on her twat. She walks to the bedroom and presses the backs of those knees against the edge of the bed. She raises her arms into a crucifix, closes her eyes and falls backward. She lands on the bed and bounces once before settling into the thick comforter. She sighs. Her hair is still braided and wrapped up with a bow; twisting her body so that her naked hips face the window and her shoulders lie parallel with the mattress, she fiddles with her intertwined creation. She tugs the knot gently and the whole thing comes loose, a mess of dark hair spilling down onto her shoulder. She takes the stockings between her teeth, grasps the bedding in fists and pulls herself toward the nightstand.
5:00. She picks up a pen and pad and begins writing to him. He will never read it, but it doesn't matter. Someone will. The cleaning lady. The guy working the front desk. Someone in the universe will see it, will read it, will know. Naked and scrawling, she bares the parts she never really wanted him to see.
Dear David - You owe me $500.
Six more words for him. That's all. She places it on the nightstand, face up. She puts the pen down. She reaches up with both hands and drags her fingers from the center corners of her eyes across her closed lids and down her cheeks, smearing her mascara and eyeliner, deepening her sockets. She swings her legs around and stands up. The sun is almost down now. She begins walking to retrieve her dress and things, pulling her stockings behind her across the carpet.
Step. Drag. Step. Drag. Step. Drag.
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